Some say bookstores are on the brink of extinction, along with video and music stores, as consumers migrate to the digital world.
Sure, there's plenty of evidence along those lines, now that mega-bookstore chains Borders and Waldenbooks are history. Barnes & Noble, meanwhile, is battling sagging profits and has been forced to embrace the digital world. If you go to its website, you can't miss the big advertisement for its Nook eReader and some apps.
Net sales of e-books jumped to 15 percent of the market in 2011 from 6 percent in 2010, according to Reuters, citing information from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group.
Overall U.S. book market sales declined 2.5 percent to $27.2 billion in 2011, down from $27.9 billion in 2010, the report said.
The Valley has witnessed the erosion of brick and mortar with losses like Borders in Whitehall Township, Waldenbooks at area malls and even Read Green Books, the short-lived used bookstore chain that filled the former Waldenbooks' spaces.
It's not all doom and gloom, though. Up-and-coming discount bookstore chain Bargain Book Warehouse, a label with a handful of stores, is making a footprint in the region, including its newest store that opened just weeks ago at the former Weis Markets' grocery store in East Stroudsburg.
The discounter, which also has stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, uses a no-frills business model to limit overhead. That means a basic setup with thousands of books obtained through publisher returns and overstock.
And manager Stina Forsell says the chain may be looking to open a location in the Lehigh Valley in the coming months.
She said ideal locations are buildings that have tens of thousands of square feet, lots of traffic and some already-established merchants nearby. Hmm … just off the top of my head I can think of a few local spaces: The former Staples building on MacArthur Road and the former Max & Jill space up the road, which coincidently housed a Barnes & Noble in its former life.
I was having a hard time coming up with more examples since discount grocer Bottom Dollar Food snatched up a lot of the available big-box real estate in the Valley.
The 30,000-square-foot store is lined with large wooden tables displaying tens of thousands of new books ranging in price from $1 to as much $15 for high-end hardcovers. The store touts discounts of up to 90 percent off original prices and selections that run the gamut from children's, "how to" guides, nonfiction, fiction, SAT Prep, religious, art, to gardening and audios.
Other retail news takes us to Bethlehem, where staple city seafood peddler Orchard Knoll is looking to return to business in the coming weeks.
The space at 2980 Linden St. has been closed for more than a year due to damage at Orchard Knoll's clam farm in Florida, which was victimized by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the store's manager said Wednesday.
Clams are Orchard's top seller. I'll update this when opening details emerge.
Orchard Knoll dates to the 1930s. The business moved from Bethlehem's South Side to Macada Plaza in 2008.
Now onto the Valley's growing cupcakery front. It's getting even bigger, thanks to Cuddles' Cupcake Bar, a Bethlehem-based online store.
Owner Josette Vadala said this cupcakery differs because hers "provides fully customizable options. The possibilities are limitless."
Customers can choose their cupcake flavor, frosting flavor and finishing touches.
She added that you can also order cupcakes unassembled, and add your own frosting and topping at home.